Former Yankee OF Gerald Williams passes at 55

New York Yankees

Williams was originally drafted by the Yankees in 1987 and played parts of five seasons over two separate stints with the team.

Former New York Yankees draft pick and outfielder Gerald Williams passed away from cancer on Tuesday morning at the age of 55. Williams’ passing was confirmed by his close friend and former New York teammate Derek Jeter.

“To my teammate and one of my best friends in the world, rest in peace, my brother,” Jeter said on the social accounts of his website, The Players’ Tribune. “My thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Liliana, and their whole family.”

Williams entered professional baseball in 1987, when the Yankees chose him in the 14th round of the amateur draft. He would make his MLB debut in the late stages of the 1992 season, bursting onto the scene with three home runs and six runs batted in over 27 at-bats. Injuries prevented Williams from making a lasting impact on the New York roster, but he was nonetheless responsible for several memorable pinstriped moments.

In May 1996, Williams tied a Yankee record with six hits in a single game (set by Myril Hoag and tied again by Johnny Damon), doing so in an extra innings win over Baltimore. Less than two weeks later, Williams played a major role in Dwight Gooden’s no-hitter against Seattle, as his running catch took a hit from Alex Rodriguez and set up a double-play when Darren Bragg, assuming Rodriguez had picked up a hit, ran too far.

Williams was traded to Milwaukee in August 1996 (in a deal that sent Graeme Lloyd, Pat Listach, and Ricky Bones to The Bronx) but was nonetheless awarded a World Series ring when the Yankees topped the Atlanta Braves in the ensuing Fall Classic. After stints with the Brewers (1996-97), Atlanta Braves (1998-99), and Tampa Bay Devil Rays (2000-01), Williams made his way back to the Yankees in 2001, where he’d play parts of two more seasons before ending his career with the Florida Marlins (2003) and New York Mets (2004-05).

Over a 14-year career, Williams batted .255 with 85 home runs and 365 RBI. Though he did not appear in any games, he earned another World Series ring with the Marlins, who bested Jeter and the Yankees in six games. Williams also partook in the Braves’ run to the 1999 World Series, where they were beaten in four by his original employers. Of note, Williams batted .389 during Atlanta’s four-game NLDS win over the Houston Astros and he scored the winning run on Kenny Rogers’ bases-loaded walk to Andruw Jones in the 11th inning of the clinching NLCS game against the Mets. Williams had opened the frame with a double before he was advanced to third on a Bret Boone sacrifice, leading to consecutive intentional walks to close out the series.

Williams is survived by his wife Liliana.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

What’s next for Jack Hermansson after falling short at UFC Vegas 47?

This past Saturday in the main event of UFC Vegas 47, top middleweight contenders went toe-to-toe. Sean Strickland (25-3) was looking to continue his impressive unbeaten streak at 185 pounds as he took on “The Joker” Jack Hermansson (22-7).

For Hermansson, the game plan was clear at UFC Vegas 47. He needed to get the fight to the ground. Hermansson is not going to win a striking battle with many of the top guys in the division. While serviceable on the feet, his bread and butter is on the mat.

When the fight started out, Hermansson actually looked pretty good on the feet. He was landing solid low kicks and had good pressure. I gave Hermansson the first round. However, it was tough to give him another round after that point.

Strickland was able to keep the fight standing and Hermansson was never able to get a ton of momentum. While he had his moments at UFC Vegas 47, the story of the fight was the lack of takedowns and as a result, Hermansson lost a decision.

What’s next after UFC Vegas 47?

Just a few years ago, it looked like Hermansson was on his way towards a UFC title shot. The Joker had a winning streak going and the promotion gave him a headliner in his homeland of Sweden which is usually the treatment you get if the promotion is banking on you.

Alexander Gustafsson got this same treatment when he headlined against Anthony “Rumble” Johnson years ago in Sweden. However, like Gustufsson, Hermansson was finished in his homecoming and hasn’t been able to right the ship completely since.

After losing to Jared Cannonier in Sweden, Hermansson is 2-2 in his last four. He had a solid submission win over Kelvin Gastelum during the UFC’s first trip to Fight Island, however, he’s then lost two headliners against Marvin Vettori and Sean Strickland.

It’s clear that Hermansson needs to tighten up the striking if he wants to be a threat for UFC gold. After this latest loss, who should be next? Well, I think the UFC should pair him up with Darren Till (18-4-1). They tried to make this fight a couple of times and it fell through.

Both men are in similar spots and they need wins to get clarity on where they stand. It’s the perfect matchup and one I think the promotion might lean towards making.

Chris Weidman aiming to make UFC return sooner than later

Chris Weidman

Former UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman (15-6) is starting to gear things up for his return to the octagon. It’s been almost a year since we’ve seen Weidman and the last time we saw him, he had to be carried out on a stretcher due to a horrific injury.

Weidman was taking on Uriah Hall at UFC 261. It was the first PPV event for the UFC where there was a full audience. Weidman was rejuvenated after the struggles he had in previous years. He was coming off of a big win against Omari Akhmedov and was looking to use the Hall fight to establish himself as a contender again.

However, the fight would end seconds after it started. Weidman opened with a powerful low kick that Hall checked. When Hall checked the kick, Weidman’s leg completely snapped in half. Weidman fell to the ground and it looked like his career could’ve been over.

However, Weidman had surgery and he’s been working hard on making a comeback. He’s had some setbacks, but the former UFC champion is closer than ever to making a return. He recently appeared on Fighter vs. Writer on MMA Fighting to talk about his return.

Weidman’s last UFC run

In the episode which can be listed to here, Weidman talked about his desire to make one final run. He talked about the fact that he’s looking sensational in the gym and he truly believes that he can compete with the best in UFC right now.

Weidman mentioned that he didn’t want to put a specific timeline on his return, but he said he would be returning this year no matter what. With that in mind, who should the UFC look at pairing Weidman with whenever he’s ready to make his return.

To me, there is one perfect fight if both men can make it happen with their health. The perfect fight for Chris Weidman would be a rematch with former UFC champion Luke Rockhold (16-5). Like Weidman, Rockhold is also working his way back from injury.

Rockhold was supposed to fight Sean Strickland in November but a back injury delayed his UFC return. Both of these legends match up perfectly and when they are ready to go, the promotion should put this one together.

Giants hiring blitzing maestro Don “Wink” Martindale as team’s new defensive coordinator

wink martindale, ravens, giants

The New York Giants have hired their next defensive coordinator, Don “Wink” Martindale. Brian Daboll’s coaching staff is shaping out with this hiring that will fill his last available coordinator position. Martindale will fill the position left behind by Patrick Graham after Graham left New York for Las Vegas last week.

What does Wink Martindale bring to the table?

Don Martindale runs a fast-paced, high-flying defensive scheme that was tremendously successful in Baltimore. No one blitzes more than Martindale.

Ravens Blitz percentage under Don Martindale:

  • 2018- 1st (39.6%)
  • 2019- 1st (54.9%)
  • 2020 – 1st (44.1%)
  • 2021 – 6th (31.1%)

Martindale is a blitz maestro. His blitz-heavy defenses ranked in the top three in the NFL from 2018-2020. Before an injury-filled 2021 season, the Ravens ranked No. 1 in the NFL in fewest yards (307.8) and points per game (18.2) in Martindale’s first three seasons as DC (2018-20).

Don Martindale has been regarded as one of the best defensive coordinators in the NFL during his time in Baltimore. His talent was recognized by the Giants in 2020 when Martindale interviewed for New York’s vacant head coaching position. Ultimately, the job went to Joe Judge, but now, two years later, Wink is joining the Giants’ staff as their next defensive coordinator.

What to expect from Wink’s defensive scheme:

The New York Giants have been running a 3-4 defensive scheme for years now. Patrick Graham utilized a base 3-4 with a variety of unique blitz packages. A blitz-heavy 3-4 defense is exactly what Don Martindale will bring to the Big Apple.

Continuing with a scheme like this will provide at least some continuity for the Giants’ defensive players. But there is a chance that Martindale’s scheme would provide New York with a major upgrade. Not only will the Giants’ pass-rushing improve under Martindale, but their rushing defense should improve, too.

Don Martindale’s rush defense:

The Baltimore Ravens possessed a top-ten run defense in each of the four years that Don Martindale was the team’s defensive coordinator. This past season, the Ravens’ run defense ranked first in the NFL. The Ravens’ banged-up defense allowed only 1,436 yards on the ground in 2021.

For comparison, the New York Giants ranked 25th in the NFL in rushing defense. The Giants allowed 2,193 rushing yards this season. If hired as the next defensive coordinator of the Giants, Don “Wink” Martindale would instantly improve the team’s rush defense while installing an uber-aggressive 3-4 defense that has proven to be greatly successful.

Bellator close to finalizing rematch between AJ McKee and Patricio Pitbull

AJ McKee

Bellator is close to finalizing a massive rematch for the featherweight championship. Ariel Helwani reported earlier today that the promotion was inching closer to finalizing the highly anticipated rematch between featherweight champion AJ McKee (18-0) and Patricio Pitbull (32-5).

Per Helwani, the matchup is being targeted for a Bellator event in April. It’s not surprising at all to hear that the promotion is getting close to finalizing this matchup as the writing has been on the wall since they first fought back in July.

At the end of July at Bellator 263, McKee and Pitbull met in the finale of the Bellator Featherweight Grand Prix. McKee was the superstar prospect while Pitbull is arguably the greatest and most decorated fighter in Bellator’s history. The fight would tell a lot regarding the future of the promotion.

Well, the fight didn’t last long as AJ McKee stormed through Pitbull in the first round. After rocking him badly on the feet, McKee choked out Pitbull to stake his claim as the face of Bellator and the best fighter in the promotion.

Bellator Title Rematch

The loss was the first featherweight loss for Pitbull since 2015. Outside of a leg injury loss to Benson Henderson in 2016, Pitbull had been basically perfect inside the Bellator cage over the past five/six years. However, McKee made it look easy when they fought.

Both McKee and Pitbull stormed through the featherweight grand prix and finished their two fights leading to the finals. These two meeting in the finals was the Bellator dream and it came to fruition in Los Angeles.

After the fight was over, there was speculation about what would be next. Would McKee rematch Pitbull at featherweight? Would McKee fight Pitbull at lightweight and try to become a two-division Bellator champion? Or, would McKee take on someone else entirely?

We got more clarity after Patricio Pitbull vacated the lightweight title to focus on featherweight. When that happened, the writing was on the wall and now we know the fight we are getting is the featherweight title rematch. Despite Pitbull’s historic success, expect McKee to be a big favorite when these two fight again in April.

After big win at UFC Vegas 47, what’s next for Sean Strickland?

This past Saturday at UFC Vegas 47, we saw a pivotal headliner in the middleweight division. Surging top contender and personality Sean Strickland (25-3) had his toughest test to date as he took on “The Joker” Jack Hermansson (22-7).

For both men, the path to victory was clear at UFC Vegas 47. Strickland needed to keep the fight on the feet while Hermansson needed to get things to the ground. Well, Hermansson wasn’t able to get the fight to the ground once.

That said, he did surprise me a bit with his striking and was able to win some rounds. However, the story of UFC Vegas 47 was still the sleek striking and good striking defense of Sean Strickland. Strickland controlled the fight with his stiff jab.

Now, he didn’t get super aggressive which he admitted after the fight. Strickland admitted that the situation and the moment got to him which forced him to fight a bit more tentative than usual. He was very critical of his own performance at UFC Vegas 47.

That said, he still controlled the fight and I thought he won a clear decision. However, one judge somehow scored the fight for Hermansson which shocked everyone. But, the right man still won at the end of the day and Strickland got his hand raised.

What’s next after UFC Vegas 47?

After his motorcycle accident and his move to middleweight, Sean Strickland has been perfect. He’s a perfect 5-0 and now has two headlining wins under his belt with wins over Uriah Hall and this past Saturday with Jack Hermansson.

With his fifth straight victory at 185 secured, what’s next for Sean Strickland. Well, the UFC does have a few options for the entertaining Strickland. If you’re wanting the fight that makes the most sense, it’s a matchup with Marvin Vettori (18-4-1).

However, Strickland and Vettori are good friends and Strickland made it clear that he doesn’t want to fight Vettori next. With that, there are a couple of additional options that will have us looking forward to UFC 271 this upcoming weekend.

There are two big matchups at 185 this weekend. Obviously the title fight with Israel Adesanya and Robert Whittaker. However, you also have a potential title eliminator between Jared Cannonier and Derek Brunson.

How these fights play out could impact Strickland. If Adesanya wins, he will likely face the winner of Brunson – Cannonier. With that, the UFC could pair Strickland with Robert Whittaker. However, if Whittaker wins, I wouldn’t rule out an immediate rematch to do the trilogy with Whittaker and Adesanya.

If that were to happen, Strickland could fight the Cannonier – Brunson winner. There is a lot up in the air, but rest assured, Sean Strickland will be watching UFC 271.

Mets announce Old Timers’ Day for August 27

New York Mets, Daniel Murphy

The New York Mets announced that Old Timers’ Day will return in 2022. Fans will be able to watch some of the organization’s legends before the game against the Colorado Rockies on August 27.

For those who don’t remember (the Mets haven’t had one since 1994), Old Timers’ Day is a tradition in Major League Baseball uses some hours preceding a weekend game to honor and remember some of its biggest players of the past. Lots of icons are invited and often play a short exhibition game.

“Bringing back Old Timers’ Day was one of the most passionate requests I heard from our fans,” Mets owner Steve Cohen said in a statement. “As we celebrate our 60th Anniversary season, having these legendary players return to the ballpark to hear cheers from Mets fans once again is the perfect way to honor our past.”

Per the Mets, about 40 legends are expected to go to Old Timers’ Day, including Frank Thomas, Ron Swoboda, Jon Matlack, Felix Millán, Mookie Wilson, Howard Johnson, Bobby Ojeda, Robin Ventura, Turk Wendell, Endy Chávez, Cliff Floyd, and Daniel Murphy.

Players of all ages and eras will attend

More former players could join in the upcoming months.

Thomas told the Mets’ official MLB site that he expects to take “some BP before the game. I hit homers at the Polo Grounds and at Shea. I would love to hit one at Citi Field,” the 92-year-old said.

Murphy is the one who wore the Mets uniform more recently. He was key on New York’s 2015 World Series run.

“It will be great to put on a Mets uniform again,” Murphy said. “I’m sure when I hit the field my mind will be racing back to 2015. That was an incredibly special time.”

Ventura will also be present. “Maybe we can recreate my Grand Slam Single,” he laughed. “Fans remember that hit (Game Five of the 1999 NLCS vs. Atlanta) more than if I had actually been credited with a grand slam.”

Bellator announces Douglas Lima – Jason Jackson for London event

Bellator MMA announced a massive welterweight contest today that looks to be a title eliminator. The promotion took to Twitter to announce that former welterweight champion and middleweight title challenger Douglas Lima (32-10) will be taking on Jason Jackson (15-4).

The matchup will take place on May 13th when the promotion returns to London, England. This matchup will serve as the co-main event as the main event is scheduled to be a welterweight title contest between Yaroslav Amosov and Michael “Venom” Page.

This is a huge fight for Jason Jackson. A few years ago, Jackson was on the radar of the UFC. He appeared on Dana White’s Contender Series but lost his fight due to injury. Immediately after that, Bellator signed him and he scored a TKO win.

However, he found himself back in LFA for a couple of fights after that. After a couple of additional wins, Bellator brought him back. He lost his first fight back by split decision. However, he’s been perfect since then.

Jackson is now 5-0 in his last five Bellator fights. His competition level has been high as well as he’s defeated the likes of Paul Daley, Neiman Gracie, and Benson Henderson. A win over Douglas Lima would definitely make him next for the welterweight title.

Bellator Redemption for Lima

It seems just like yesterday that people were talking about Bellator’s Douglas Lima as one of the very best in the world. Lima was riding a stretch where he went 6-1 which included knocking out Michael “Venom” Page and dominating Rory MacDonald to become welterweight champion.

He rode that momentum into challenging Gegard Mousasi for the middleweight title. He was looking to become Bellator’s double-champion. However, he was dominated by Mousasi and that forced him to move back to welterweight.

When he returned, he lost to Yaroslav Amosov in dominating fashion which lost him his welterweight title. After that, he was defeated by MVP at Bellator 267. Now, all of a sudden, Lima has lost three fights in a row.

This is a huge fight for him to prove that he’s still amongst the best in the promotion. There’s a ton riding on this fight for both men which should make for an excellent fight.

Should the Knicks Sell On Julius Randle After He’s Failed to Meet Expectations?

julius randle, knicks

The 2021-22 season for the New York Knicks has been a disappointing one so far. Sitting four spots away from last place in the Eastern Conference with a 24-30 record, the Knicks have struggled to establish a consistent yet productive scoring output throughout the course of the season.

With the Knicks possessing a Top 10 defense that only allows its opponents to score 105.4 points per game, it’s their offense that is struggling once again, despite signing point guard Kemba Walker and shooting guard Evan Fournier last summer to alleviate their scoring troubles.

Although the Knicks’ offensive woes are by no means a result of one player’s shortcomings, the weight of the blame has fallen on the shoulders of the Knicks’ best player, in Julius Randle. Though this treatment is not entirely justifiable considering how extensive this issue is across the entire team, Randle’s scoring mishaps have stood out the most, and like a sore thumb, have been impossible to ignore.

Last season, Randle was elected to his first All-Star Game, and for good reason. He finished the season averaging 24.1 ppg, 10.2 rpg, and 6.0 apg while shooting 45.6% from the field to go along with a sharp 41.1 3-PT shooting percentage as well. Fast forward to this season, and Randle’s only posting 18.9 ppg, 9.9 rpg, and 5.1 apg to go with a measly 41.8 field goal percentage and a lousy 30.8 3-PT percentage as well.

Because of this stark drop from Randel’s scoring output, there’s been a couple of trade rumors hovering over him as the deadline approaches, including the possibility of the Knicks potentially trading him for Sacramento Kings point guard DeAaron Fox.

Although trading Randle for a playmaking, scoring-oriented point guard might sound quite appealing, is doing so the best bet for the Knicks moving forward? Despite their desperate need for a point guard, the answer is a big no and for a handful of key reasons.

The first reality that’s vital to grasp about Randle is that he’s a very important foundational piece for the Knicks and brings a broad set of skills and strengths that can’t be replaced by just anyone in this league. In fact, Randle is truly one of the most complete players in the NBA, with just how good he is at scoring inside the paint and outside on the perimeter, crashing the glass, passing the ball, and playing defense.

However, the reason why he’s struggled so much this season is due to the role and expectations the Knicks are placing on him. What’s important to understand about Randle is that, although he can score and put up points, he’s not a naturally gifted scorer that will drop 25+ per game, something the Knicks have been in desperate need of over these last three years. Aside from averaging 24 points per game last season (a career-high), asking Randle to be your main scorer is not playing him to his strengths. And the demand and pressure of that role has impacted his ability to score throughout this season.

The best way to understand what the Knicks are dealing with in Randle is to think of it this way: Randle is his own version of what Draymond Green is for the Golden State Warriors. Though Randle obviously scores more than Green, the key point to grasp here is that Randle is a much better playmaker than he is a scorer, similarly to that of Green. And because the Knicks haven’t been able to provide him with anyone that can drop 25+ a game on a regular basis, he’s struggled with the pressure of filling that void along with RJ Barrett, Fournier, and Walker.

If the Knicks traded for a player like Damian Lillard, Bradley Beal, or Donovan Mitchell and found a way to keep Randle at the same time, Randle would thrive and work really well with the scoring balance these superstars provide. But because he doesn’t have that natural scorer to work with, the pressure has gotten to him more than ever, and trading him wouldn’t solve this offensive crisis the Knicks are dealing with.

Lastly, the Knicks gave Randle a big 4-year extension worth $117 million that starts this summer. And after choosing to invest big in their bright power forward, the Knicks might as well give him a chance to live up to that expectation before pulling the plug on him.

As we saw with Green in Golden State, having a playmaking big man that’s so versatile is truly game-changing and provides an anchoring level of stability for a team that’s hard to come by. But just like Green, Randle needs his Steph Curry. And if there are any players the Knicks want to trade by the deadline, they should consider everyone else but their best player in Julius Randle.

Fellow Yankees prospect details the traits that make Anthony Volpe “different” than the rest

anthony volpe, yankees

No minor leaguer developed as well as New York Yankees’ shortstop prospect Anthony Volpe in the 2021 season. He hit .294 with 27 homers, 35 doubles, six triples, and 33 stolen bases in 109 games between Low-A Tampa and High-A Hudson Valley.

But he wasn’t the star he is today back when he was drafted, in 2019. He had an average body for a 18-year-old kid, but work ethic and his drive to improve forced him to work on his physique during the pandemic.

“Over that pandemic, Volpe just worked on his craft a ton and showed up last year looking like he put on 30 pounds of muscle,” Yankees pitching prospect Ken Waldichuk told NJ Advance Media recently.

Seeing that kind of drive in a teenager was, in part, the reason why the Yankees took a chance on him in the first round of that 2019 draft. He was very projectable and had skills, but needed a lot of development. In the absence of a minor league season in 2020, he took matters into his own hands.

The Yankees shortstop of the future

Waldichuk said Volpe is “really smart” and knows what he has to do to succeed in professional baseball. He is always one step ahead of the rest.

“You could definitely tell he was different,” Waldichuk said. “He’s just really smart. You’d see him even on an off day studying pitchers, like seeing what their tendencies were, which is definitely a big-league thing.

“That’s where the whole mental game comes in, especially once you get to the higher levels. Hitters will study each other and they’ll see tendencies and they’ll just sit on stuff. I think the craziest part is at that (rookie league) level everyone’s a little younger and people will watch the game, but it won’t be literally every pitch. Whenever the other pitcher was on the mound, it almost seemed like Volpe was making a scouting report in his head. So you could see he had the mindset to be really good.”

Volpe is, by all accounts, the shortstop of the future in the Yankees organization. He will have his first taste of the upper minors in 2022.